Reflections On My Trip Back Home
On May 3rd, 2018 my grandpa left his body and passed on. He was the loving father of my mom and Auntie Tia. A month or so prior, I had recieved the news that he was admitted to the hospital. He was having problems with breathing while he slept. His heart wasn’t working like it used to. He stayed in the hospital a couple weeks while they monitored his improvement. Finally he was able to go back home.
It was in the ensuing months that his health continued to decline. My mom ended up practically moving in so she could take care of her ailing father. The problem was that my grandpa was too proud, and a bit too old fashioned, to want any external help such as hospice caregivers. This meant that the dying process fell onto the shoulders of my mom, grandma, and a few nurses that stopped by periodically. My mom and grandma are by no means professional hospice workers. But they did the best they possibly could with trying to make my grandpa feel comfortable and loved in his last days.
When I learned that my grandfather died I was taken aback. I had been relatively disconnected from the whole process. What came first to my mind was how I wanted to go home and visit. When I arrived in Peru 9 months ago, I had no intention of going back to the State’s until I was done. I wanted my friends and loved ones to visit me here instead. Ultimately that mindset proved to be a bit naive, and within 2 weeks I was on a direct flight to Los Angeles.
My visit back home was undeniably beautiful. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of my visit, I was able to make the best of my short time back home. This meant lots of time with family and friends. I came home a week in advance of my grandpa’s celebration of life. In this time I managed to do some of my favorite things and see some of my favorite people. I rock climbed, went to the beach, ate good food, played disc golf, drank good beer, cooked, saw old friends and spent time with my family.
When it came time to head north for my grandpa’s memorial, we loaded up the car and headed to Arroyo Grande. As a kid, I used to take this part of CA for granted. But the few times I have been their as a mature adult has made me realize just how beautiful and special of a place it really is.
When we arrived at my grandpa’s house only my grandma met us at the door. Her solitude and my grandpa’s absence was obvious right from the start. Moving around the house felt odd. Seeing my grandpa’s empty chair at the dinner table and his recliner chair not reclined with him in it made me feel sad. I can’t imagine what emptiness and loneliness my grandma feels when she lays down in bed every night.
We spent time getting the house ready for the guests to come the following day. We did some grocery shopping and prepared food. I was in charge of picking out the beer and chopping vegetables for the macaroni salad. Despite the sad nature of our visit, everyone was well hydrated, fed and in decent spirits. In his days, my grandpa became notorious for his BBQ ribs and homemade sauce. I have vivid memories of him BBQing in the back yard. The smell of the red oak (he didn’t use charcoal or gas) and the ribs was always deliciously potent. So we had plans to serve that for dinner when all the family was over the following day. Ribs, macaroni salad, and my grandma’s homemade beans.
The following day is when everyone came over. I saw old aunts and uncles that I hadn’t seen in years. Their kids now were grown up and taking on personalities of their own. The first meet and greet was a little awkward because of how much time had passed, but eventually we were comfortable and catching up on each other’s lives. It was fun for me to see my grandma and grandpa’s friends come by. The neighbors were there and members from grandma’s Tuesday Ladies Lunch Bunch were there. My grandpa and grandma were well supported and loved for this event.
Once the guests moved on, the family sat down to eat dinner. My dad had been BBQing the ribs almost all day and no doubt with lots of pressure to get them right. I even overheard some uncles being critical of his BBQ technique. Nonetheless the ribs came out great. Everyone was happy with the delicious dinner. My grandma said that grandpa would be proud. I ate about 5 ribs. They were my first in I don’t know how many years. Coming back from Peru as a carnivore meant that I was happily excited to eat my grandpa’s ribs once again.
Once we finished dinner, cleaning the house and watching Jeopardy with grandma, we decided to head up to San Luis Obispo to see old friends and have a drink. We ended up popping around the college town of SLO and having a really fun time. On the way home we stopped by In-N-Out and went back to the hotel. The next morning we all woke up late and a little hungover, but all very satisfied with how the weekend went.
My mom and grandma were so brave and strong it was amazing. I hope the weekend served them well. That they were able to feel the love and move forward in the healing process, even if just a little bit.
I didn’t get emotional about leaving and going back to Peru until I was on the plane. My parents drove me to the airport and even their teary-eyes hugs didn’t break me. I make the joke sometimes that only girls (as in girlfriends) can make me cry. But of course that’s not entirely true. When I had a couple thousand feet between me and the family I just left I got really sad. I asked myself why do I keep doing this? Why does it seem like I am always off to far away places? It started with CO. Then sometime in Costa Rica. Illinois was next and now Peru. This is by far the farthest and longest time I have lived away from my tribe. Why do I keep putting distance in between people that love me unconditionally?
The best answer I could come up with was because the distance, and the new people and experiences that come with the new destinations, makes me a better person. The traveling and living I have done away from home has made me realize just how diverse and beautiful our world is. On a contrary note, it has also helped me realize just how similar we are as humans despite the varying reaches of the earth that we live in. It makes me realize just how goddamn special my family is– my mom, dad and sister. How special the place I call home is. How special the humans I call my friends (really just more brothers and sisters) are. And how special I am. How worthy I am of seeing new places and experiencing new things. To travel is a privilege and I consider myself so blessed to be able to live that privilege. And blessed to have a support system that spans across thousands of miles. A system that thinks about me daily. A support system that shrinks the globe with videos and photos of events and people that I am missing. A system that sends me love through their breath and through their thoughts.
Thank you to any and all for your support during this sad time. Your questions and curiosity about my grandpa and how I am dealing with the process has really made me feel loved. It does not go unnoticed.
RIP Grandpa Crowe. We love you!